AEO - Association of event organisers

Working smarter, not harder – just in time. By Caitlin Read from Comexposium


Working smarter, not harder – just in time. By Caitlin Read from Comexposium


The theme of the 2020 AEO Forums was “Work smarter, not harder,” and I can’t imagine a more apt theme for the beginning of 2020.

Customer focus

Within the exhibition industry over the last few years, we’ve been heavily focusing on understanding, planning, and measuring, customer experience.  How do we deliver exceptional, and unique, experiences for our clients? What are best practices for creating meaningful connections? How do we deliver bespoke journeys for each person at the show?

Customer focus is, has been, and will continue to be, a huge priority for everyone in events. But also, how-in-the-heck can we do it all?!? Our industry is now seeing more events each year, more co-located events, B2B work events, B2C passion events, niche communities, networking nights, expert panels, online communities … and the list goes on. To deliver all these events, our teams are working themselves to the bone trying to deliver more great experiences.

So, something must give

It’s widely acknowledged that exhibitions have changed, and what our customers want and expect has changed. So, we adapted. And, we will continue to adapt.  But, it’s past time that we also start adapting the ways we work to deliver these events. We need to be looking for ways to work smarter. This may be more collaborative ways to work, focusing on higher-value tasks, finding innovative solutions, using technology better, or other ways of prioritising what’s important. But what’s key is that we need to find ways to work smarter, and to make the time to figure out better ways to work.  

Simply, there is no more room to work harder. We’ve reached the breaking point. So, help me, if I have to track one more mailing list on an excel sheet, I am going to retrain to work in finance.  

Tips for working smarter

With this in mind, operations, sales, and marketing professional from the exhibition industry headed to the 2020 AEO Forums. The day started out with Nalan Emre, from IMEX Group, talking about sustainability in events. She stressed the importance of working together across internal functions, as well as getting buy-in from customers and suppliers, to start shifting mindsets and making a real difference.  

We then broke into three groups, Sales, Operations, and Marketing to focus on tips and ideas for how we can work smarter, not harder, within our own functions. Deep diving into specific topics within each function and hearing practical advice from experts.

Smarter and more collaboratively

At the end of the day, we all came together again to focus on collaboration. As events teams, we have the same ultimate product, customer, and deadline. Therefore, we need to work together to be truly high performing teams.

In our separate streams, we talked about what’s going well with our relationships and where do we need to improve.  Will a sales person and a marketing person ever agree on “this exhibitor is upset, do some social for them?” Will anyone ever get their items in on time for the operations deadlines? We can live in hope.

After our functional discussions, we came together to debrief, and much to the relief of the AEO organisers, it seems the consensus of the attendees was positive. We know we aren’t perfect, but we are willing to work on our relationships and improve our teamwork.  The classic, but classic for a reason, items around communications and sharing information came up. As well, we heard a lot about being flexible in what your definition of a team is, sharing information and priorities, and keeping an empathetic mindset. It was a good reminder to work on breaking down those silos. Maybe next year, we can check in again and see if the needle has moved?

All in all, the Forums were fantastic. Participants in all the streams came away with valuable tips they can put into practice as soon as they’re back in the office. I also hope we all learned a little more what it’s like to walk in one another’s (hopefully eco-friendly) shoes.

Coming up next

Thank you so much to everyone at AEO who helped to put this year’s Forums together. I am already looking forward to next year, but I hope to see everyone sooner at the AEO Awards on 12 June. Also, don’t forget about the AEO Working Groups, where people across the industry are getting together to discuss and tackle our common problems all year-round.

  • "Broadway Events joined the AEO on the Enterprise Membership. We’ve already taken advantage of the many benefits including the excellent FaceTime Masterclasses and training guides for exhibitors."
    Emma Barrett
    Broadway Events
  • "We are a member of the AEO because it is a proactive association for the events industry. As an organiser it provides us with high value ideas, networking, guidance and information."
    David Harrison
    PPMA Group
  • "This year, the association has led working groups to address industry issues and put on some amazing events full of insightful content for both organisers and, through the AEOs FaceTime initiative, exhibitors. In addition, the AEO has represented the industry at a Governmental level to raise awareness of the importance of events to the UK economy."
    Paul Byrom
    Upper Street Events
  • "I genuinely believe that if you’re involved in organising events you should become a member of the AEO."
    Simon Kimble
    Clarion Events
  • "Our membership of the AEO represents real and tangible value for UBM - it provides fantastic networking opportunities, practical training for our team as well as valuable insight into the state of our industry."
    Simon Parker
    Informa Markets
  • "As an Association business, we appreciate the excellent work the secretariat of the AEO do for our community. From the events side of our business, the AEO provides an excellent return on investment, providing thought leadership, fantastic networking, brilliant awards, excellent research and FaceTime, a valuable tool to tell our markets why exhibitions and events should be an essential part of the marketing mix."
    Neil Felton
  • "AEO’s networking and member meetings are valuable for individuals at all levels within our organisation. The promotion of our sector to the outside world, to government, authorities and business at large is another vital aspect of the AEO’s purpose for members, many of whom, like my company, work on events throughout the world."
    Stephen Brooks
    Mack Brooks Exhibitions
  • “Knowledge is power and the AEO dinners are certainly powerful, there is always a wealth of knowledge at the table. Insightful presentations make for a constructive and extremely social way to learn from the experts who’ve done it before. I attended the Japanese evening and gained really valuable insight about the culture and how best to communicate with a local audience.”
    John Whitaker
    Vice President Marketing, Data & Digital , dmg events
  • "We have the opportunity to contribute positively to the industry as well as gaining valuable insight and advice. There’s no need to spend valuable time and money reinventing the wheel when you have so many experienced professionals in AEO membership to learn from”
    Emma Cartmell
    CHS Group
  • "JOINING THE AEO HAS BEEN FANTASTIC! Being able to gift our customers with free places at the FaceTime masterclasses, learn alongside industry peers and seek advice to common challenges is invaluable”
    Sharon Azam
    GovNet Communications
  • I just wanted to send my most sincere thanks for everything that you and the AEO team are doing to help navigate the events industry through the pandemic. The working groups and communication from the AEO have been excellent and I’m really appreciative of being part of such a wonderful organisation.
    Simon Burns
    ICHF Events
  • I think what the AEO has been doing during this tough time has been exceptional.
    Greg Cherry
    QD Events LTD
  • It is so useful to hear from your peers at this time. Please pass my thanks to Ruth and the BTIG panel
    Dan Assor
    CloserStill Media
  • Just wanted to thank you and Ruth this morning for the Zoom meeting - it was really interesting to hear how things are moving along in the virtual/hybrid meeting/exhibitions. All very new to me, so a lot to digest.
    Maureen Wright
    Optic UK
  • The session this morning was fantastic. We are right in the midst of this and the information was so useful. We can apply it immediately
    Claire Adams
  • The AEO provides an opportunity to make a difference, to work with other companies for the good of the industry as a whole, but beyond that, it provides it’s members with valuable insight and tangible benefits to grow your business, upskill and engage your teams. For those reasons, our membership is in indelible ink on the each annual budget. In short, if you aren’t a member, you are missing out.
    Ed Tranter
    73 Media




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